Allora to Yelarbon (Queensland, Australia)

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It’s fresh and cold when we wake in the morning so we’re in no rush to start the day. The Taj Mahal complete with big double air mattress, sheets and blankets is almost as comfortable as the bed at home so why rush. We do eventually rise though and start the day with a walk along country roads in search of a geocache. Once out we discover that while the air is crisp the sun is delightfully warm.

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The geocache is hidden in the Allora Cemetery, about 1.5km (1 mile) walk from camp. The cemetery stands alone well and truly outside the town. Perhaps this is to allow for expansion or maybe this is to reduce the risk of ghosts walking into town. I’m not sure. But it is well cared for. What I find most interesting (other than finding the geocache) is the age people lived to here. There are many gravestones dating back to the mid-twentieth century and earlier for people who lived beyond 80 years old. One lady who was born in 1866 lived to be 100 years old. Is this a result of good healthy living or did this town always have aged care facilities (it currently has two despite its small size).

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We take breakfast at Amy’s Country Cafe in Allora. It’s our way of thanking the town for providing free and comfortable camping facilities. The breakfast is honest tasty food served by cheerful friendly people. And then we’re out on the road again. Geocaching.com lists two caches hidden on the Allora-Warwick Road so we take this road instead of the highway. Yellow fields of dry grass drift past our eyes as we follow the black line cut through the middle.

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We stop at Sacred Heart chapel. It stands midway between the two towns, some 16km (10 miles) from anywhere. This is the highest point on the road and maybe that is why it was chosen as the spot for worship. Or maybe there was once a town here before transport improved. This is common in the Australian bush – chapels in the middle of nowhere outlasting the towns they once serviced.

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Geocaches found we continue on to Warwick. I’ve blasted through Warwick countless times, never stopping to see what’s here. It’s the place where you fill up the petrol tanks if you are driving from Brisbane to Sydney on the inland road but not much more. The Rose City itself is actually quite big though. It has loads of beautiful old sandstone buildings including the Town Hall, Abbey of the Roses and a few others I can’t name. There’s a shopping centre, three camping shops, pubs, all the major fast food outlets and even a strange massage parlour. Why strange? Well, Paul asked for a 10 minute leg massage but the lady gave him a 10 minute back and neck massage instead. Who knows. Maybe her grasp of the English language was not so strong (she had a strong Thai accent) or maybe she didn’t want to touch his legs. Either way, she chatted a lot and apparently had a rough technique that belied her relatively small stature.

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While in Warwick we stopped off at Federation Park on the Condamine River. I love these rivers west of the Great Dividing Range. They are wide and move slowly towards the sea thousands of miles (yes, despite being a metric country, Australians still talk about things being miles distant) away in South Australia at the other end of the Murray-Darling network.

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But as this sign shows, these languid rivers are not to be underestimated because when they flood, they flood. To put this sign into context, I am 167cm (5’6″) tall and the flood markers extend way beyond my height, even with my arm extended. This is probably why the Allora and Warwick State Schools have brand new buildings.

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And this is the frog who is integral to this cycle of drought and flood that exists here on our wide brown island. Tiddalik the frog was thirsty. So he drank all the waters in the land, creating drought. He drank all the rivers and the lakes and the swamps dry. He drank and drank until there was no more water left anywhere on the land. The animals grew concerned because without water they could not survive so they tried to make him spit the water back out. Reasoning did not work so they tried to make Tiddalik laugh. All the animals tried but even the kookaburra’s laugh couldn’t get him to open his mouth. And then an eel wriggled and twisted himself into knots in front of Tiddalik on the dry river bed. Tiddalik could resist no more and started to laugh. He laughed so hard that he spat all the water back out across the land, refilling the rivers, lakes and swamps.

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After paying our respects to Tiddalik we wave goodbye to Warwick and follow the highway west on the Goondoowindi (Gundy) road. Fatigue-related deaths are common on these roads due to people pushing through from Brisbane to Gundy without realising how far it is. So the road authorities came up with some creative solutions to try to keep drivers awake, including this trivia quiz. But don’t think you can just pull a 2c coin from your pocket because we haven’t had them in over two decades. So the question not only creates discussion for an answer but also discussion about the history of the two cent coin.

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The road is lined with winter wattles. The bright yellow is a stark contrast to the bright blue skies and patches of red dirt. After a brief stop in Inglewood for lunch at the town park we make camp in the tiny town of Yelarbon with it’s population of just 240 people (down from 400 people in the 2006 census). You can camp in the recreation grounds for $10 a night unpowered or $15 a night if you want power. We opt for a powered site so we can charge our devices.

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Tent pitched we set off for a walk along the wetland walking trail that has been constructed to attract tourists.

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It’s the perfect time of year for the bush because the land is awash with colours. It is harsh and dry here but somehow all these flowers manage to survive and show off their cheer. For an hour we wander along the path stopping regularly to photograph almost everything that smiles at us.

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Before long the sun is setting and we are treated to reflections on a billabong in one direction and reflections on the eastern sky in the other as the blanket of night starts to fall over the land. All that’s left to do is shower, change into warm clothes and walk to the local pub for a meal. Again, we decide to go because the camping will only be here if the local businesses survive. And country pubs tend to do pretty good meals. So we break our diet and eat nice big juicy steaks served with delicious salty chips and gravy.

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